Why robots won’t take over customer success!

With the evolution of technology, and the dawn of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the media is awash with statistics on how many of today’s jobs will be lost to “robots”.  In apocalyptic headlines, humans will be marginalized in the working world, leaving many of us on the scrap heap, apparently.

Quick! Best we find a new career that will still need human beings, so that we can still earn a living!  For those of us in customer success, we can feel confident that we’ll be just fine.  Here’s 3 reasons why.

Customer success drives automation (not the other way round): If customer success is all about managing habits, and ultimately changing them, then you could say that AI will likely take over this learning.  Taking an existing pattern or habit, and finessing it could be driven by AI.  But fundamentally influencing the behaviour of something as complex as a human mind, with the many emotional and psychological variable would seem unlikely.

For example, if you are trying to change someone’s habit from nothing to taking action, as well as understanding the tasks required to take the action, you also need to understand emotions involved.  Some people may not change the habit due to fear, others due to ignorance, yet others due to laziness.  Human instinct helps us determine a multiplicity of possible scenarios to achieve the desired change, and modify them based on our understanding of these emotions.  At a certain point, the change is sufficiently solidified through human learning to automate, and we can use our human intelligence on the next challenge.  This leads me on to the next point.

Actions that don’t add value should be automated:  In the olden days, we used to stand in queues, with a bit of paper to pay money into a bank account.  Most millennials have never even seen a cheque book.  And yet the action of moving money is so much easier, safer and faster than it used to be.  Standing in line to hand over a cheque to a bank teller adds no value for a customer.

Talking to a bank employee about a complex problem, that we need help to understand in order to fix does add value.  The human interactions should always add value, helping the customer (and creating a more engaging role for the employee who deals with the customer.)

People trust people: In an immature customer experience, negative emotions are prevalent and can often arise disproportionately.  That’s because, no matter how sophisticated we think we are, we are ultimately animals, where certain instincts drive and power us.  If I don’t know where I am going, I worry I will miss the junction.  If I’m having to do a complex task for the first time, I might get frustrated and angry that I can’t assemble that flat pack wardrobe.  Joy can quickly turn to fear when you first go on that new extra twisty roller-coaster.

When we’re unfamiliar with an experience, we seek information to reassure ourselves.  If we are quite familiar with an experience (e.g. taking a different route to work), we have enough awareness and confidence to use the information we can access to adapt to the new habit.  But where it’s a completely new habit (e.g. flying an airplane), our emotional response is best managed through the sharing of knowledge from another human.

Insight comes from data we gather (objective actions) AND human interactions we have (subjective views and comments.)  The effectiveness of AI is increased by combining both sources of data to drive the customer through the customer journey.  So for the foreseeable future, I strongly believe that human engagement will be required to create sophisticated AI that changes habits and maintains them.

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